I’ve come across a few posts talking about ‘unhealthy INFPs’ it led me to think about the negative sides of being an INFP and leading with an Fi (introverted feeling) cognitive function, and my past experiences.
Introverted feeling (Fi) is a decision-making function, it’s what I mainly use to navigate the world around me. It’s based on an intensive focus on myself, my feelings and values. I observe the world around me, taking it in and filtering it through how I feel about it and how it fits into my value system, if something (or myself) is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. An introverted feeler is very self aware, and has a very strong value system that they will fiercely protect.
“Unlike Extraverted Feeling (Fe), which responds to the environment and others emotions, Introverted Feeling (Fi) deals with morals and what the person truly believes. Fi is more in depth and complex, and Fi users can easily identify their own feelings and emotions in a very accurate way. People with Introverted Feeling tend to be on a quest to figure out who they are and what they want out of life. Ideally, they would like everything they do to be in congruence with their personal believes, seeking harmony between their actions, thoughts, and personal values. An INFP spends a lot of time thinking about if X, Y, and Z are congruous with her vision about the way X, Y, and Z should be. They want to live a life as true to themselves as possible”
Many articles talk about how Fi users are highly sensitive, compassionate and sincere. We’re some of the most empathetic people because we can easily put ourselves into the shoes of someone else. And that’s all true, but more often than not, it’s easier to see all the negative sides and outcomes of leading with Fi. Sometimes, I honestly dislike the Fi function so much.
A few years back, someone called me selfish. At that time, it felt like I’d been cut and I didn’t even know why. I didn’t understand- how could I possibly be selfish when I cared so much about what other people thought and felt, how could I be selfish when my intentions were ‘good’? It’s only now, looking back after such a long time, that person was probably right. When you lead with Fi, it’s easy to become very self-absorbed. It was a time when I was very alone, when my feelings and thoughts were so extreme I really couldn’t think about anything other than myself and how I felt.
“Fi isn’t selfish, but Fi-users can be and often are because they get stuck in a continual feed of introversion and analyzing relations based on themselves, getting stuck in an fi-si loop, and that isn’t how healthy Fi is supposed to be used”
Its not uncommon for INFPs to look to the external world primarily for information that will support their ideas and values, and does not take in enough information about the external world to have a good sense of what’s going on. They see nothing but their own perspective, and deal with the world only so far as they need to in order to support their perspective. These individuals usually come across as selfish and unrealistic- I get so caught up in myself, so caught up in my own feelings and thoughts and so sure of my own beliefs that I never stopped to look or even consider the outside world. My feelings were my fact, my only basis for how I perceived the world, and now I realise just how much I lost touch with reality.
When one looks at life through the lens of a magnifying glass, everything looms larger but less is seen. She can lose a realistic sense of proportion about the situation and herself more and more. Without the help of Extraverted Intuition, she can’t see the possibilities that remain to her. Hope fades. Without the aid of Extraverted Thinking, she can’t find practical ways to deal with what troubles her and may overreact, making matters worse, or she might fail to act at all. Her faith in herself shrinks as a sense of powerlessness overwhelms her. Yet her discouragement is based on illusions born of her lost perspective and balance.
“Unhealthy INFPs cling to their Introverted Feeling and usually refuse to communicate their needs and feelings to their friends. They don’t open up easily and there is a lot of denial, usually. They take constructive criticism and advice very personally and feel like they’re being attacked. Immature INFPs can be like hypersensitive, emotional children and get hurt by everything. They are melodramatic and overreact to anything that they perceive as hurtful.
A similar reflection of this pattern is also seen in their creative – the perfectionist, sensitive unhealthy INFP will refuse to even try to make anything because they feel like if it’s not perfect, it’s a reflection of the fact that they’re not good enough. So to protect themselves, they isolate themselves socially, refuse to participate in even creative activities they love and it all goes to shit unless someone can get through to them or they give themselves the push they need to come to grips with the situation. “
It scares me a lot, actually, how true this all is. Perfectionism, unhealthy idealism, a tendency to avoid conflict, denial, stubbornness, being oversensitive and easily offended, extreme mood swings, becoming cold and critical when stressed, isolation, a tendency for melancholy. It also scares me to know how easily I can fall into a rut of negativity, completely isolate myself, indulge in unhealthy feelings and behaviors and become so blinded by myself and my own emotions. That I can, without even knowing, become someone I don’t want to be. They say INFPs are more prone to depression and anxiety, and I don’t think it’s hard to see why.
When you’re so idealistic, you have this perfect picture in your head of what things are ‘meant to be’- what I am supposed to be like (perfect), what my life is supposed to be like, always seeing everyone and everything through rose-colored lens. I see the best in people and I see the beauty in all the little things. But reality is often too harsh, too difficult, too much to handle. When people continuously tell you ‘you’re too sensitive’, when nobody seems to validate your feelings, when you feel alone all the time- it’s easier to retreat into isolation, to lose yourself in your head, to believe only in what you want to. You lose a sense of reality, cling on to your Fi, letting your inner world and feelings become your only truth, shutting out the rest of the world. As naturally creative and artistic people, it’s not hard to indulge in sadness and try to find the beauty in it. Not to mention, the internet is filled with such people who romanticize suffering and mental illness. You lose yourself in the process and there’s really nothing beautiful about it.
My therapist told me, ‘I think these are things that you’re always going to struggle with, but we can always work on learning to cope with them’
I believe that our development stems from a combination of nature and nurture, that who I am and why I am the way I am comes from not just MBTI and cognitive functions but also all the things that I have been through. Perhaps, if I had parents who understood how to raise an INFP child, if I had more internal stability, if I had a better self-esteem and a wider range of coping skills, I would be a healthier, more well-adjusted INFP.
But my past is what made me who I am, and I can’t change it even if I wanted to. I’m proud of myself for even being able to get to this point where I’m able to sit down and write ‘negative’ post about myself, and not let it define me because I know there are positives as well. (maybe i’ll write about that soon) If I were to write something like this in the past, I would have let all my feelings and inner critic overwhelm me. It would have turned into an examination and amplification of all my faults and ‘why I am a terrible person’ instead of simply trying to understand my unhealthy behaviors and weaknesses.
Sometimes I still want to run to wonderland, to dance with demons and fairies alike, to live in a fantasy world- reality is hard. Dealing with myself is hard. But I’m trying, I’m learning more about how my brain works and understanding myself, and how to grow as a person.